Thursday, October 1, 2009

Some, When Alone, Cease to Exist - An Axe

Some, When Alone, Cease to Exist

An Axe
Decorum Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

When a young band of musicians seek to meld their love of “Nick Cave melodrama, Shadows twang and Roy Orbison croon” - as their bio states – into a cohesive, new sound, I confess to carrying a few reservations. Those aren’t flavours of the month being name-dropped there; those are timeless acts who have each claimed their stake by cutting a piece off the rock genre for themselves. And few bands – no less a group who’ve been together barely a year – risk approaching such revered company for fear of falling under pioneering shadows. Then again, you can’t truly achieve without setting the bar high and An Axe do just that with Some, When Alone, Cease to Exist; a recording of fatalist balladry and minor-key unrest that lives up to its bio.

Having cut their collection of songs down to a purposeful and direct four-track EP, An Axe imbed each composition with its own frightful imagery as if each belongs to a respective environment. The opening chimes and rollicking guitar of ‘Ship’ suggest an arrival by sea, whereby this Bristol-based quartet intends to explore the tales and tribulations of a less civilized age. Make no mistake, these are songs that belong to desperate times or desolate surroundings. Pianos echo as if stabbed in a darkened saloon, drums pound sparingly their ritualistic rhythms, and Chris Nicholl’s vocals hurdle the band’s confrontational melodies, assuming a lower croon on ‘Ship’ or a higher, delicate timbre as on ‘Island’. As visionary as An Axe – featuring Samuel Lewis (guitar), James A. Holland (piano) and Justin Clark (drums) – prove themselves instrumentally, Nicholl’s flexible vocals are indeed the icing on the cake, lilting and haunting Some, When Alone, Cease to Exist’s otherwise stark existence. Listen no further than ‘Taxidermist’s Bride’ to understand this band’s atmospheric prowess; how their web of moist guitars intermingle against unforgiving cymbal taps and morose lyrics which together form a sinister narrative befitting of Mr. Cave himself.

Another possible dark-horse influence, Robert Smith, devised a recording technique in the early 80s that sought to include a giant abyss among the bass, drums and guitar. In his mind, emphasizing a glaring absence in the arrangements not only hollowed a composition out, but also introduced a numbing emotion that no overblown, additional instrumentation could muster. An Axe seem to understand this less-is-more strategy, and while the collection runs a brief fourteen minutes, Some, When Alone, Cease to Exist is a varied sample of this young band’s vision and skill. Let’s hope to hear a full-length from these lads soon…!

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